Russian Rulers: Khrushchev 1953-64

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Coming to power

Stalin died in 1953, left no clear successor > Central Committee supposed to rule with a 10 man praesidium. 

3 competitors for rule: Beria (head of NKVD) - powerful but unpopular, Khrushchev - wanted to 'plant the virgin lands' (Kazakhstan), Malenkhov (wanted more consumer goods).

After 2-3 years, Khruschev came out as General Secretary - most powerful, not all powerful.

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In power

Made lots of changes, very quickly - should've been hard (why wasn't it?) - not all powerful like Stalin, BUT went against Stalin's policies so people were happy > Secret Speech at 1956 20th Party Congress, critical of the 'cult of personality' (criticising Stalin!) which confused people - Khrushchev had been successful under Stalin? But Khrushchev openly referred to the 'climate of fear' under Stalin as a factor for anyone's success - they dared not defy Stalin.

Examples of going against Stalin: 1961 Stalin's body removed from Lenin Mausoleum, Stalingrad renamed Volgograd, Gulags opened with millions freed BUT didn't give them official pardon. 

Although Khruschev had no absolute power, it was still a dictatorship in some ways > still censorship in Art & Literature > Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 'A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich - also an example of Khrushchev's haphazard policy - he allowed it to be published, but said Aleks. couldn't accept a nobel prize for it.

The Khrushchev Fall

Holidayed for 5 months in 1964, was called back, praesidium accused him of being a cult personality, Central Committee agreed - expelled not executed.

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Background: Under Stalin, 5 year plans used Biological Yields - weren't accurate and led to lies about production & poor quality goods, lack of commercial goods - focus on heavy industry, largest planned economy in the world was run from Mocsow - unrealistic.

Problems for Khrushchev: Fewer animals in 1953 than 1917, State Procurement led to lack of incentive for farmers - low prodctivity, high & inconsistent tax on farmers.

Solutions: 1953-6 procurement prices increased by 25%, Motor Tractor Stations forced to lower prices, then replaced with Repair Stations & gave farms the machines > production rose 30% 1953-64, Industry focused on farming machinery & fertiliser, planted Siberia & Kazakhstan 1953 > 1956 produced 60% of Russia's grain BUT very windy - top soil blown away so some bad harvests e.g. 1963, allowed collective farms to set own targets, changed taxes - no meat tax.

Impact: Some targets were unrealistic > 'craze for maize' early '60s failed, procurement prices still fluctuated (sometimes less than production cost!), 3% of Russia's land was private - contributed 30% Russia's grain, closure of Motor Tractor Stations - farmers had nowhere for tractors so they rusted, those who were supposed to repair went to cities.

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Continuity from Stalin - 5-7 year plans, big emphasis on power stations.

Regional Economic Councils led to bureaucracy - 3 inefficient levels > didn't survive after Khrushchev.

Diesel & Electric trains - to go to the virgin lands.

Big scientific & space development - for missile development - Spudnick.


1955 vs 1965

Coal: 391mil. tonnes 578mil. tonnes

Tractors: 314,000 804,000

Electricity:170bn KWH 507bn KWH Average 30% increase

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Ordinary Peoples' Lives

1956 minimum wage introduced - very good (UK's introduced only 2001.)

Household income rose 3% pa 1960-65 but consumer goods very expensive.

1968 50% had a TV AND washing machine - on par with UK, 10% had a car AND phone.

1955 495,00 TV sets in Russia > 1965 3,695,000 TV sets in Russia.

Khrushchokya - poor quality!

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The Cold War

Was interested in peace but the West never knew where it stood: 1960 reduced army size from 3.6 million to 2.4 million, BUT wouldn't relinquish control over satellite states & used extra army cash to buy missiles.

Khrushchev talked about destalinisation & said conflict between capitalism & communism wasn't inevitable - abandoned plans for navy expansion, but in 1958 wanted Western troops out of Berlin > issuead ultimatum > he never followed through & eventually backed down, 1961 erected the Berlin Wall - haphazard policy.

Aware of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), so although Russia had developed an atom bomb etc. would not implement unless very desperate - led to wins in The Space Race - 1961 man in Space.

1959 vice-president Nixon visited USSR, September Khrushchev visited USA.

April 1960 U2 plane crisis, led to a frosty atmosphere. 

October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev clumsy with PR and came off as the 'bad guy.' 

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Eastern Europe & China

Poland: Bierut in charge, replaced by less ******** government from Khrushchev.

Hungary: Reformist Nagy in charge, uprising as a result of reforms in Poland, Nagy tried to leave Warsaw pact > Khrushchev sent in tanks, 4,000 killed & Nagy executed.

Yugoslavia: Tito in charge, slightly liberal communist. Not so much under Soviet control - Independent but very good relationship with USSR.

China: 1949 became communist under General Mao Zedong - world's largest 2 countries were communist - a worry for the West! Khrushchev sent lots of aid > 7% of 1953's national income, and returned Port Arthur & Dalyan to China. Fell out mid - '50s over Tito & Yugoslavia & destalinisation. 1960 cool relations between Russia & China.

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